“The rabbinate is a lonely vocation”

The rabbinate is a lonely vocation. From the moment a person announces the intention to become a Jewish spiritual leader through study for ordination at a yeshiva or seminary, he or she is set apart from the lay community. We expect our rabbis to be learned, wise, kind and to lead exemplary personal lives. We want them to teach, inspire and offer pastoral guidance in normative life cycle events as well as in times of crisis or tragedy. Clergy are first responders in times of emotional upheaval, including for those who have no formal connection to religious life. In contrast to mental health therapists, who conduct their sessions at scheduled times and in professional offices, rabbis hear profound and wrenching stories while greeting people at kiddush, in the middle of dinner, in emergency rooms, and at the hospital bedside.

Michelle Friedman, “Who’s Taking Care Of The Rabbi?”, The Jewish Week (31 October 2014), 24.